Learning sign language can be as challenging as learning any language. But today, opportunities exist that make learning sign language seem less daunting. There are videos on youtube, apps that help you practice, and networks of people trying to learn the very same thing.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language” that is most often taught to kids with a heightened or complete hearing loss. “Parents should introduce a child who is deaf and hard of hearing to language as soon as possible. The earlier any child is exposed to and begins to acquire language, the better that child’s communication skills will become.” Depending on severity of hearing loss and the presence or not of a cochlear implant, parents can opt for sign language, verbal language, or a combination of verbal and sign language.
Why Should You Learn Sign Language
If you’re older, is there any reason for you to learn sign language? Of course. Especially if your child has a profound hearing loss. If you use ASL fluently around your child, he or she will pick up that language more naturally then if you’re both learning at the same time.
Sign language is also good to know if you’re a speech therapist or audiologist. Having an extra avenue of communication is always useful, and sign language is considered the “primary language of many North Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing.” Healthy Hearing estimates that 500,00 to 2 million people speak ASL.
Some researchers even say that learning sign language – indeed any second language – is good for your brain.
Learning ASL in Philadelphia
If you want to learn sign language, but are looking for something outside of online resources, where can you go? Colleges are often a good place to look. Many might offer continuing education classes where you can learn the basics and beyond.
Other options are just a google search away. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf offers classes, and will often set up “satellite sign language classes on site at local schools or businesses.” The Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre (DHCC) also lists info for community ASL classes, and you can sign up for their email list right on their website.